As part of an effort to shake up our routine and reduce our meat intake we decided to do a vegetarian February, and with the exception of some terrible meat substitute sausages, it's been a really enjoyable experience! I've been surprised by how much quicker and cheaper it's been to prepare the majority of meals, and it's helped us to branch out and try some amazing recipes we would have probably overlooked previously.
It's also helped to get me thinking more about easy vegetarian cooking. One of the things that I always like to have on the go in the fridge is a homemade jar of pesto. It's super easy to make, it lasts for up to two weeks in the fridge, and it is ten times better than the shop bought stuff. If you've never tried doing this yourself, you won't be able to go back once you've tried the homemade version, it's too good. It's also really quick to pull together, and can last you for several lunches/dinners.
I tend to alternate between two different pestos: a basil green pesto, and a roasted red pepper pesto. Both are delicious in their own way, and only require a handful of ingredients. The green is fresh, garlicky and full of zing from the lemon juice, and the red carries a delicious chargrilled pepper flavour. I've outlined both recipes below for you to try yourselves. I like to mix a couple of tablespoons of pesto with some gnocchi, toasted pine nuts, and a little parmesan, but you can do this with spaghetti, pasta, or any roasted veg or chicken you have that needs using up. Enjoy!
FOR THE GREEN PESTO...
- 50g pine nuts, toasted
- 1 cup of fresh basil (large handful)
- 1 cup of fresh mint (large handful)
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 small cloves of garlic
- 60g parmesan
- 4 or 5 Tablespoons of good quality olive oil
- Pinch of salt and black pepper
Toast the pine nuts on a medium heat in a dry frying pan and set aside. Keep an eye on these as they burn easily.
Peel the garlic cloves then add them with the basil, mint, pine nuts, parmesan and lemon to a blender/ food processor.
Add in 3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil and blitz. Then gradually add the remaining oil until you reach a paste like consistency, and season to taste.
Store in an airtight container for 7 - 10 days.
We LOVE garlic so this pesto has a big hit of basil and garlic to suit our tastes, but as long as you include all of the above ingredients in some way, you can play around with quantities until you have the taste that works for you! And do invest in a good quality olive oil, it makes all the difference.
FOR THE RED PESTO... This one takes a little more preparation but once you've roasted the peppers, it takes five minutes to pull the rest together.
- 2 Red peppers
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 30g of pine nuts (approx 2 tablespoons)
- 1 cup of fresh basil (large handful)
- Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Good quality olive oil
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan oven). Slice the peppers into large chunks, place them onto a baking tray and season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the peppers skin side down to give them a chance to blacken slightly. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes.
Add the roasted peppers to a blender/food processor with the basil, garlic, chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Lightly toast the pine nuts then add them to the mix along with a tablespoon of olive oil.
Blitz the mixture and keep drizzling in olive oil until you have a nice thick and fairly smooth consistency (see picture below). Then once you're happy, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Store in an airtight container for two weeks. As there's no cheese in the mix this one lasts a little longer.
And that's it. It's that simple. You can use them straight away or do your future self a favour and make them in advance so that dinner preparation takes as long as the pasta does to cook.
These also work really nicely as flavouring for bread rolls or focaccia. Since working from home, it's been in my best interest to always have a homemade pesto on the go so that I can benefit from Dave's baking!
As ever, if you give these a go I'd love to know how you get on, and if you share anything on social, don't forget to give me a tag. Enjoy! x